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Baking for All Occasions

Baking for All Occasions

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Baking for All Occasions

5/5 (4 оценки)
929 pages
10 hours
Sep 21, 2012


Baking expert Flo Braker rises to the occasion with more than 200 celebration-worthy recipes for baked goods. Whether it's an impressive Dark Chocolate Custard Tart to wish someone a happy birthday, a blue ribbon-worthy batch of Fresh Mint Brownies for the annual family reunion, or an Old World Braided Coffee Cake to impress the bridge club, each recipe is custom-crafted to commemorate life's special events. Lots of introductory information on techniques and ingredients ensure that each treat will be baked to perfection, making this a fabulous reference for any cookbook library. Baking for All Occasions makes each day something to celebrate.
Sep 21, 2012

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Flo Braker is the author of Sweet Miniatures and The Simple Art of Perfect Baking. She lives in Palo Alto, California.

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Baking for All Occasions - Flo Braker

Baking for All Occasions

























Lemon-Scented Pull-Apart Coffee Cake

Red Velvet Cake Roll

Strawberry-Mango Shortcakes with Basil Syrup

Evie Lieb’s Processor Challah Bread

Fruit-Nut Florentine Cookie Triangles

Milk Chocolate S’more Tartlets with Homemade Marshmallow Topping

Peanut Butter Crunch Cake, Squared

All-American Chocolate Cake with Divinity Frosting and Milk Chocolate Paint

Fruit Cocktail Trifles with Crème Anglaise

Mocha-Almond O’Marble Cake

Tangy Lemon Custard Tart with Pomegranate Gelée

Frozen Lemon Glacier

Butterscotch Spiral Coffee Cake

Flag-Raising Mixed-Berry Potpies

Heart-to-Heart-to-Heart Cookies

Chocolate-Dipped Cheesecake-sicles

Cinnamon Bubble Buns

Cupid’s Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream

Congo Brownies

Sour Cream Custard Tart

Focaccia for Breakfast

Chocolate-Vanilla Swirl Cookies

Eggnog Pound Cake with Crystal Rum Glaze

Baking for All Occasions


By Flo Braker




Dedication and Acknowledgments



Part One

A Baking Primer

Fundamental Baking Techniques

Essential Equipment


Part Two

Blue-Ribbon Worthy

Banana-Bottom Pineapple-Swirl Cupcakes

Bishop’s Cake

Blueberry Muff ins with Doughnut Topping

Heavenly Brownie-on-Shortbread Bars

Double-Crust Butter-Pecan Apple Pie

Chocolate-Chip Cookie Cake

Any Day All-Occasion Snack Cake

Fresh Mint Brownies

Walnut Breton Cake

Kouign Amman Express Pastries

Tangy Lemon Custard Tart with Pomegranate Gelée

Peanut Butter Pound Cake with Coconut-Date Topping

Pecan-Pine Nut Tassie Crostata

Fresh Pineapple Crumble Cake

Cinnamon Bubble Buns

Almond-Rhubarb Snack Cake

Strawberry-Mango Shortcakes with Basil Syrup

Tender Butter Cake with Nut-Crunch Topping

Red Velvet Cake Roll

Crowd-Pleasing Favorites

Mocha-Almond O’Marble Cake

Triple-Ginger Gingerbread

Classic Butter Cake Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Sour Cream Frosting

Spicy Applesauce Cake

Prune Plum-Apricot Oversized Frangipane Tart

Banana-Split Cream Pie

Butterscotch Spiral Coffee Cake

Congo Brownies

Swiss Engadiner Squares

Luscious Lime Bars with Milk Chocolate Glaze

Millionaire’s Shortbread

Flourless Banana Chiffon Cake

Raspberry Sheet Cake

Chocolate-Sour Cream Pound Cake with Cheesecake Swirl

Brown Sugar-Almond Slices

Inside-Out Chocolate Layer Cake

Special Spritz Cookies

Orange Chiffon Tweed Cake with Milk ‘n’ Honey Sabayon

Double-Crust Sweet Ricotta Galette

Five-Layer Checkerboard Cake with Dark Chocolate Ultra-Satin Frosting

Baking for a Rainy Day

Peanut Butter Crunch Cake, Squared

Quintessential Cheese Blintzes

Over-the-Top Super-Duper Ice Cream Sandwiches

Bundernuss Torte

Dark Chocolate Baby Cakes

Sunshine Orange Semifreddo

Frozen Lemon Glacier

Great Peanut Butter Grated-Dough Bars

Frozen Fruit Rainbow Terrine

Lily’s Extraordinary Linzer Tart

Chocolate Marquise with Graham Crackers

Naomi’s Date-Nut Slices

Peppermint Candy Ice Cream Cake Roll

Pumpkin Ice Cream Prof i teroles with Caramel Sauce

Mile-High Cheesecake

Hearth and Home All Day Long

Banana Streusel Snack Cake

Focaccia for Breakfast

Popovers with Bourbon-Buttermilk Sauce

Rhubarb, Apple, and Raspberry Jalousie

Lemon-Scented Pull-Apart Coffee Cake

Maple-Pecan Medjool Date Rugelach

Old-World Braided Coffee Cake

Overnight Cinnamon Buns

Pain d’Épices

Bohemian Kolaches

Apricot Flaky Scones

Spicy Citrus Swirly Buns

Croissant Cinnamon Sticks

Coconut Twist Coffee Cake

Ready to Share

Eggnog Pound Cake with Crystal Rum Glaze

Almond Tea Cake with Tangerine Glaze

Evie Lieb’s Processor Challah

Banana-Poppy Seed Cake

Spicy Yogurt Pound Cake

Cheery Cherry Chocolate Tart

Pumpkin Strudel

Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Spearmint-Lime Glaze

Cyrano Chocolate Cake

Autumn Dried Fruit-Nut Tart

Fruit-Studded Cornmeal Cake

Gingerbread-Pecan Tart

Deluxe Lemon-Lavender Mail-a-Cake

World-Traveling Crispy ANZAC Cookies

Maple-Pecan Custard Pie

Old-Time Pound Cake with Candied Cranberry-Pineapple-Ginger Topping

Chocolate Lover’s Angel Food Cake

Ultimate Cappuccino Cheesecake

Blackberry-Blueberry Chiffon Cream Pie

Minced-Fruit Strudel

Farmers’ Market Fresh

Top-of-the-Crop Blackberry-Ginger Pie

Warm Mixed Cherry Clafouti

Golden Blueberry Cake

Rhubarb-Cherry-Raspberry Crumb Pie

Double-Crust White Peach-Polenta Tart with Sweetened Crème Fraîche

Open-Faced Apple Galette with Quince Paste

Brown Butter Pear Tart

Pastry-Topped Fig and Nectarine Cobbler

Flag-Raising Mixed-Berry Potpies

Sour Cream Custard Tart

Rustic Sweet-Potato Crostata

Almost-Last-Minute Summer Fruit Crumble

Stone-Fruit Cobbler with Cornmeal Biscuits

Apricot-Almond-Berry Buckle

24-Karat Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese Icing

Singular Sensations

Apple Cider Baby Chiffon Cakes

Banana-Coconut Upside-Down Cupcakes

Butterscotch-Pecan Mini Pies

Cheesecake Timbales

Chocolate-Dipped Cheesecake-sicles

Coffee Cup Tiramisu

Miniature Financier Teacups with Candied Kumquats

Flaky Lemon-Marshmallow Turn-overs

Double-Cranberry Mini Cakes

Hand Galettes with Assorted Fruit

Brown Butter Bundtlettes

Persimmon Bread Puddings

Three Cheers for Tiny Pumpkin Pies

Crème Fraîche Custard with Lacy Brûlée Wafers

A Dessert from Down Under with a Patriotic American Filling

Fruit Cocktail Trifles with Crème Anglaise

Year-Round Little Peach Pies

Milk Chocolate S’More Tartlets with Homemade Marshmallow Topping

Say It with Cookies

Bonnie’s Best-Selling Almond Tuiles

Cacao Nib Meringue Kisses

Chocolate Chip Cookie Logs

Chocolate-Vanilla Swirl Cookies


Be My Valentine Heartwiches

Fruit-Nut Florentine Cookie Triangles

Simply Sweet Diamants

Heart-to-Heart-to-Heart Cookies

Golden Gingersnap Stars

Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies

Nancy’s Brown Butter Buttons

Neapolitan Bars

Buttery Rosette Cookies

Cookie-Dough Hamantaschen

Susie’s Raspberry Jam Squares

Espresso Shortbread-by-the-Dozen

Scalloped Butter Cookies with Pistachio-Rose Water Glaze

Ultimate Coconut Macaroons

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Gingery Crumb Wedges

Red Letter Day Desserts

Coffee-Toffee Celebration Cake

Chocolate Roulade with Chocolate Diplomat Cream

Dulce de Tres Leches Fiesta Cake with Red Fruit Sauce

Heirloom Banana Layer Cake with Prune Plum Filling and Seafoam Frosting

Cupid’s Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream

Black Forest Cake

Rhubarb and Pistachio Tart

Black-Bottom Praline Chiffon Pie

Night and Day Torte

Deluxe Boston Cream Pie

Caramel Chocolate Cream Pie

Dee-luscious Lemon Meringue Pie

All-American Chocolate Cake with Divinity Frosting and Milk Chocolate Paint

Flourless Chocolate Torte

Frangipane Ripple Chocolate Pound Cake

Creamy Mint Napoleons

Old-Fashioned Jelly Roll with a Twist

Part Three

The Baker’s Handbook Basic Recipe Components

Favorite Buttermilk Cake

Silver Cake with Poppy Seeds

Signature Yellow Cake

Dark Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Genoise Sheet Cake

Single-Crust Flaky Pie Pastry

Double-Crust Flaky Pie Pastry

All-Butter Flaky Pastry

Four Pie Crusts at One Time

Cream Cheese Pastry

Three Tart Shells at One Time

Tender Tart Pastry

Single-Crust Crostata Pastry

Chocolate Tart Pastry

Flaky Strudel Pastry

Croissant Pastry ASAP

PDQ (Pretty Darn Quick) Puff Pastry

Crème Anglaise

Lemon Curd

Sweet Potato Puree

Red-Hot Poached Pears

Dried Plum-Armagnac Purée

Part Four


Volume and Weight Measures

Index by Recipe Categories


About the Author


Dedication and Acknowledgments

To my honey, our children, Jeff and Michal, Julie and Robert, and our grandchildren, Joshua, Natalie and Daniel whose enduring support and love of desserts make life one sweet journey.

And, with great admiration to bakers everywhere who dream, create, bake, share, and inspire me every day.

When you bake, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Butter, sugar, eggs, and flour come together to make a dazzling dessert. The same is true when you write a cookbook. A team of talented individuals works in tandem to create the finished product.

I am profoundly grateful to a multitude of colleagues and friends who have offered encouragement and support, sage advice and feedback: Amy Albert, Nancy Baggett, Michael Bauer, Casey Ellis, Louise Fiszer, Fran Gage, Marlene Sorosky Gray, Elinor Klivans, David Lebovitz, Emily Luchetti, Nick Malgieri, Rosemary Mark, Alice Medrich, Miriam Morgan, Patti Murray, Karen Nielsen, Greg Patent, Amy Pressman, Susan Purdy, Mary Risley, Carole Walter, Lisa Yockelson, and all the members of the amazing Bakers Dozen organization in the San Francisco Bay Area. Both Ann Martin Rolke and Cheryl Sternman Rule serendipitously came into my life in the early stages of the project when their editing assistance made it possible for me to move forward on the book

I am deeply indebted to Jack Adler, Kevyn Allard, Anne Baker, Allen Cohn, Melissa Eisenstat, Amanda Gold, David Grossblat, Allison Komar, Shirley Rosenberg, Jeff Sherman, Susan Walter, and Camille J. Zelinger who paid great attention to detail as they diligently tested and tasted recipes.

Magnanimous assistance came from Laura Martin Bacon, Andrew Baker, Janet Rikala Dalton, Nancy Kux, Evie Lieb, Christine Law, and Nora Tong. These articulate and baking-sawy professionals were always there to troubleshoot or share recipes, research sources, provide recipe math, clarify a lengthy paragraph, or come up with the right words to express what I wanted to say. I will be eternally thankful. My heartfelt thanks to all the great people at Chronicle Books for their invaluable efforts. Very special appreciation is due to Bill LeBlond, who first suggested that I write another book, and whose support and insight guided me to the end. Editor Amy Treadwell, always upbeat, offered great suggestions just when I needed them, and kept me and the book on track through the editorial process. A million thanks to Jane Dystel who is not only the hardest working literary agent but also the best. Sharon Silva will forever hold the blue ribbon for keen copy editing and a soft spot in my heart. And last, but not least, bouquets to photographer Scott Peterson and food stylist Kim Konecny for vividly bringing the recipes to life. These loyal, talented people and my kind, loving family and close friends helped me every step of the way. It was the sum of their efforts that made this book a sweet reality.


WRITING THE FOREWORD to this cookbook, Baking for all Occasions: A Treasury of Recipes for Everyday Celebrations, was a very enjoyable project for me. First of all, it is not an ordinary cookbook, but one created with exceptional care for ingredients, mixing, baking, and timing. And, it is written by Flo Braker, whom I met soon after I opened the original Williams-Sonoma store on Sutter Street in San Francisco in 1958. Flo has devoted most of her life to developing her knowledge and perfection in baking.

I would like to take this opportunity to praise Flo on her expertise in home baking. In this book she has devoted many pages to teaching simple baking techniques. She answers the important questions: What can baking do for you? How can baking change the atmosphere of your kitchen? How should the sifting and folding of flour be done? How best to melt chocolate? What is the best way to fold ingredients? What is the correct procedure for whipping egg whites? For caramelizing sugar?

If you are really interested in learning the art of baking, I suggest you spend a little time in reviewing the first chapter of this book, A Baking Primer. It will give you the foundation you need to bake the recipes that follow. These recipes are not only clear and precise, but also inspiring and delicious. Every baker will be richly rewarded by this wonderful book.

Chuck Williams


oc·ca·sion (noun) 1. a particular time, especially a time when something happens; 2. a chance or opportunity to do something; 3. a cause of or reason for something; 4. the need for something or to do something; 5. an important or special event

—Anne Soukhanov, Ed., Encarta World English Dictionary [New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999], p. 1249

A glance through the dictionary reveals a smorgasbord of definitions for the word occasion. For me, the meanings come together like ingredients in a recipe, creating a delicious life that has nourished me on many levels—and given me the pleasure of nurturing others.

Baking is a way to commemorate all occasions and inspire everyday celebrations. In fact, the very process of baking can become an occasion in itself. As we peruse the pages of a favorite cookbook, we experience an exhilarating feeling of anticipation. Time seems to slow down as we measure and sift, mix and bake, and then decorate our creations. The kitchen fills with the sweet, buttery aromas of baking, perfuming the air with sugar and spice. Later, as we share our homemade delights with family and friends, the occasion is deposited in their memory banks—to be evoked, even years later, by a whiff of cinnamon or warm chocolate.

Whether your reason for baking is to indulge in the sweet pastime every now and then, to whip up treats for special events, or to make baking its own occasion, the simple joys it brings will last a lifetime. My personal story is testimony to that fact, defined by a series of unforgettable occasions that have allowed me to bake a life.

Baking is a harmonious blend of art and science, so it’s not surprising that my career began with a chemistry set. As an insatiably curious nine-year-old, I spent endless hours happily ensconced at a card table in the basement of our family home. Spread out before me was an array of powders and liquids, along with a handbook of formulas and the equipment required for precise mixing. After I’d mastered the experiments in the book, I began to mix the chemicals in my own original ways (thankfully, the makers of this child-friendly set had anticipated such self-motivated wizardry). I was fascinated to learn what would happen when I combined different things, observing wide-eyed as the mixtures bubbled and fizzed and transformed themselves with exciting new colors, smells, and textures. I duly recorded every reaction, scribbling my hypotheses, observations, and inspirations in a spiralbound notebook—a habit that continues to this day.

My fascination with the alchemy of ingredients found its way to the kitchen when I was a young bride and stay-at-home mom in the early 1960s. Before then, my baking knowledge had been gleaned from a childhood and adolescence spent watching our family’s beloved housekeeper and natural-born baker, Dorothy Temme, as she whipped up her signature pies, cakes, cookies, and breads. Now that I had my very own kitchen, my experimentation began in earnest. I read every cookbook I could get my hands on, and became notorious among friends for my obsession with scribbling down dessert recipes at dinner parties.

The more I observed and learned, the more passionate I became. Baking grew into a means of artistic and personal expression as I created special sweets for the people I loved. I went from baking occasionally to baking for every occasion I could think of, from family gatherings to school functions to fundraisers. It got to the point where the sheer volume of my baking exceeded my inner circle’s consumption.

The occasion seemed perfect to begin baking professionally, so I opened a catering business, appropriately named Occasional Baking. I’d always loved to baking for all occasions to bake several things at once—stirring and tasting and transferring baking sheets with the multitasking zeal of a symphony conductor—and the business provided a bona fide reason for doing so. My repertoire expanded as clients requested desserts to sweeten the occasions in their lives. Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and family reunions filled my calendar—and long hours of trial and error filled my mind with the baking knowledge I craved.

I continued to build my culinary foundation in the solitude of my kitchen, teaching myself the skills and techniques I needed to master the European classics, from genoise to puff pastry. Just as a musician spends years practicing scales and learning the nuances of each note, I dedicated myself to perfecting the fundamentals of baking. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, analyzing and recording each one so that I wouldn’t make it again.

To this day, I vividly recall the horror of finding ignominious white pills of flour in some cakes I had baked for a client. After staying up all night baking the cakes again, I finally figured out that I had been so diligent in creaming the butter and sugar that the mixture had liquefied too much to incorporate the flour. It was one of those things you wish your mother had warned you about.

Soon, it occurred to me that my mistakes might have a noble purpose: I could share my hard-earned knowledge with others by becoming a baking teacher. In those days, there weren’t a lot of options for home bakers who wanted to expand their confidence and expertise. Although the San Francisco Bay Area was fertile ground for anyone who loved to cook, bake, and eat, it hadn’t yet erupted into the spectacular scene it is today.

One day, after attending a cooking class led by Jack Lirio, a legendary local teacher, I worked up the nerve to ask if I could rent his school to teach baking classes on the days he wasn’t using it. Jack told me to write a list of all the things I would like to teach. And I did. He liked my ideas, but instead of renting the school to me, he gave me a greater honor: Jack asked me to co-teach the baking classes with him. Over the years, many current Bay Area food luminaries—Alice Waters, Alice Medrich, Lindsey Shere, Narsai David—took a class or two. Best of all, I had the pleasure of working with other avid home bakers just like me.

I had found my life’s vocation. The late James Beard, a wise teacher and good friend, once said, When you cook, you never stop learning—that’s the fascination of it. This is exactly what happens to me when I teach baking. Over the years, I’ve learned a tremendous amount from my students and from the readers of the baking column I began writing in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1989. Every question they pose inspires me to embark on an educational odyssey toward finding the answer, gaining a bounty of sometimes-unexpected knowledge in the process.

After I began teaching, I continued to regard every experience as an occasion for learning, and found creative inspiration in all sorts of places. My favorite shop was (and still is) Williams-Sonoma, where Chuck Williams taught me to see the myriad possibilities that lay within the store’s gleaming array of baking pans, molds, and utensils.

Once my children were older, I was able to explore new echelons of the culinary world farther afield. The Great Chefs of France cooking classes at the Mondavi Winery in Napa, California, gave me the opportunity to learn from such legendary figures as Jean Troisgrois, Michel Guérard, and Gaston Lenôtre. On trips to Europe, tasting such delicacies as Sacher torte, apple strudel, Kasesnitten, Sandkuchen, and linzertorte in their native habitat was like finding the Holy Grail.

When I wrote my first book, The Simple Art of Perfect Baking, I found all of my knowledge coming together to create a compendium of what I had learned. I was also presented with a bit of advice from my mentor, the late Julia Child, that has served me well in writing, baking, and life. On hearing that I was nervous about undertaking a book project, Julia told me, Just write what works for you. I did precisely that, both in that first book and in the one that followed, Sweet Miniatures. And now I tell my students and readers, Just bake what works for you.

In Baking for All Occasions, you will find the perfect recipes for your landmark occasions, whether you are celebrating your fiftieth wedding anniversary or your baby’s first tooth. I’ve searched every corner of my life to create this treasure trove of recipes that I hope will become favorites in your own family repertoire. Here, I’ve juxtaposed desserts from my childhood, baking business, and hard-at-work imagination with those generously shared by friends and colleagues. The result is a colorful culinary patchwork quilt guaranteed to bring many happy hours of warmth, comfort, and pleasure.

The chapter themes are organized with occasions in mind, making it easy to find just the recipe you need. In Blue-Ribbon Worthy, you will discover friendly, familiar fare with a new twist, all guaranteed to elicit rave reviews from your favorite people. Baking for a Rainy Day provides recipes you can prepare ahead of time, stash in the freezer or fridge, and then finish at a moment’s notice.

When you need to bake a lot of delicious treats, turn to the Crowd-Pleasing Favorites for luscious cakes, tarts, and cookies that celebrate the occasion—and still leave you plenty of time to enjoy it. Ready to Share delivers a wealth of delectable (and easily transportable) options for those times when you’ve promised to bring a dessert to a party or other gathering.

To make the most of nature’s bounty, consult Farmers’ Market Fresh, where you will find recipes that celebrate the sweet pleasures of ripe, juicy seasonal fruits. Since I believe that every hour of the day is worth celebrating, I’ve included a chapter called Hearth and Home All Day Long. These rustic, homespun, deeply satisfying recipes showcase such old-fashioned traditions as rich, fragrant yeast coffee cakes.

Delight guests at dinner parties and buffets with the individual desserts in Singular Sensations. Beautiful and easy to serve, these petite masterpieces are favorites with dessert lovers because everyone gets his or her very own. Of course, sharing is a good thing, and so I’ve also included Say It with Cookies, an entire chapter devoted to conveying sweet sentiments.

For your grandest occasions and most memorable celebrations, you can rely on Red Letter Day Desserts to provide show-stealing recipes that won’t also rob you of your sanity. Yielding desserts that are as impressive as the chapter title implies, each recipe is broken down into simple, manageable steps that allow you to calmly and confidently prepare your special creation over the course of a few days.

Whichever recipes you choose, I hope you will bake them with love and serve them with pride. The satisfaction of crafting a special dessert with your own hands is one of life’s simplest and most profound pleasures. The knowledge, techniques, and recipes I offer here have brought great joy to me and to the people I love and admire. I wish the same for you.


A Baking Primer

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

—Lao Tzu

WHAT YOU DO at the beginning of a recipe is vital to successful baking. From the very first step, each successive task is built on the one before it.

To make sure your home-baking journey is a gratifying and productive one, I have provided an occasional baker’s primer of fundamental techniques along with the essential ingredients and equipment you will need to prepare the recipes. These baking techniques are organized according to the classic culinary practice of mise en place, that is, in the order they would be called for in a recipe.


Preparing baking pans Preparing pans properly guarantees successful removal of your homemade cake, whether from a layer cake pan or an intricately shaped pan. Warm cake structures are fragile, so preparing the pan aids in removing the cake in one piece, rather than having a portion stick to the sides or bottom. A perfectly shaped cake or one ready for decorating is a pleasure to glaze or frost, since the smoother the surface, the easier it is to cover. Keep in mind that your goal is to form just enough of a barrier between the metal pan and the batter to ease removal while still retaining the shape of the pan. Producing a perfectly formed cake or cake layer is an important first step in fashioning the dessert.

For round, square, loaf, layer, sheet cake, and springform pans, apply a film of softened butter or nonstick spray over the interior of the pan. I spread the butter over the sides and bottom with a paper towel or the paper wrapper from a stick of butter. If you prefer a nonstick spray, lightly coat the pan and then spray some on a paper towel and use the towel to spread the spray evenly over the pan. Dust the pan with flour (or use Wondra flour in a convenient shaker) and tap out the excess. Line the bottom with parchment paper.

For intricately shaped pans, first spread a thin film of room-temperature solid shortening over the pan with a paper towel, making sure you cover all of the ridges and crevices. Next, for insurance, lightly spray the pan with nonstick spray in case you missed a spot. Then dust the pan with flour and tap out the excess.

Pan preparation is determined by what you are baking. The butter and flour needed to prepare the cake, yeast bread, yeast coffee cake, and muffin pans for the recipes in this book are in addition to the butter and flour amounts in the list of ingredients. When a recipe requires a different form of pan preparation from the standard described here, the recipe explains the preparation.

Room-temperature ingredients Many of my recipes remind you to have all of the ingredients at room temperature, and despite sounding like a Johnnyone-note, I feel compelled to say it one more time. Room-temperature ingredients are important to the success of many aspects of baking, but especially cake making. They make it possible to combine dry and liquid ingredients together easily to form a smooth batter. Depending on your kitchen’s temperature and the time of year, allow ingredients such as butter, eggs, and milk to sit at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes before using.

For example, cold eggs added to a fluffy, properly creamed mixture curdle it (breaks the emulsion) because air bubbles in the mixture break. This causes the loss of some of the lightness you want to achieve when making a butter cake. Also, you will not end up with a smooth, well-blended mixture if you add cold milk to melted butter or fold warm chocolate into whipped cream or a cold buttercream. Ingredients or mixtures that have similar consistencies and temperatures come together easily and unify the dry and liquid ingredients smoothly without overworking the mixture or losing its airy structure. That’s why beginning with room-temperature ingredients is so important to creating a homogeneous cake or cookie batter.

ROOM-TEMPERATURE, SOFTENED, AND SOFT BUTTER To achieve the desired texture and to blend well with other ingredients, butter must be at a certain consistency. How long it takes for butter to warm from its original cold, solid refrigerated state (35 to 40 degrees F) to the proper consistency depends on the time of year, where you live, and the temperature of your kitchen. For example, you want the maximum aeration when making most cake batters, so you need room-temperature butter, which you arrive at by letting it stand at room temperature until it is between 65 and 70 degrees f (see Instant-Read Thermometer).

But I find that the best way to judge the different temperature stages of butter is to rely on physical cues, rather than a thermometer. Press a finger into the butter, and if it still feels cool and your finger forms an indentation while the rest of the butter keeps its shape without cracking, it is at room temperature. For some cookie doughs, softened butter, and sometimes even soft butter, is necessary to bring the dough together with little manipulation (and without a lot of aeration, so the cookie holds its shape as it bakes). Press a finger into the butter, and if it is soft enough to yield to your finger but you can still pick it up without it being limp, it is softened butter. When the butter no longer can maintain its shape if you attempt to pick it up, it is soft butter, which is perfect for some cookie doughs, such as my Special Spritz Cookies and Buttery Rosette Cookies.

Be careful if you use the microwave to soften butter. It works fast and you can easily end up with a portion of the butter soft and another portion almost melted. Use medium power (50 percent), very short bursts, rotate or turn over the butter with each burst, and monitor the progress vigilantly. If time is of the essence, soften butter quickly by cutting it into slices, and shortly the butter will be close to what you need it to be, 65 to 70 degrees f or even warmer.

Sifting No sifting is necessary for the sake of accurate measurement in the book. (Of course, if you go by the weight measurements that I provide in every recipe, sifting is irrelevant.) All measurements for dry ingredients, such as flour, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder, begin with the ingredient unsifted. For measuring flour and powdered sugar, empty the bag or a portion of it into a bowl or a sturdy storage container. For cocoa powder, poke a fork in the cocoa powder in its container to break up any chunks, and then fluff up the contents slightly. My decision to omit sifting before measuring was influenced by my desire to simplify the preparation process where I could without affecting the outcome. So I modified the recipes just slightly to ensure the necessary balance of ingredients for successful results.

If a recipe does call for sifting, it is only to disperse all of the dry ingredients, such as flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, before making a cake. When I do sift, I put the dry ingredients in a fine-mesh sieve instead of a triple-sifter, and I carefully shake the sieve back and forth over a sheet of waxed paper until all of the particles fall through the sieve into a mound on the paper.

My switch from a triple-sifter to a fine-mesh sieve occurred when triple-sifters became hard to find in kitchenware shops and the kitchen-accessories departments of supermarkets. At the same time, I found that the amount of flour I typically needed to sift took an unusually long time to work its way through the triple screens (and coaxing it through by hitting the side of the sifter with the side of my hand made me fear that one day I’d chip a bone, if not throw my wristwatch out of whack), and that the sieve streamlined the process. And because using a sieve to add dry ingredients to my batters and doughs was easier and my results were just as successful as when I used the triple-sifter, I never looked back. However, if, for example, I don’t think the cocoa blended thoroughly with the flour, I simply pass the mixture through the sieve a second time.

Folding Proper folding is key to making a featherlight angel food cake, a chiffon pie filling, chocolate mousse, and many other cakes, fillings, and desserts. In order to combine two different ingredients or mixtures, such as melted chocolate into a cake batter, you must fold them together gently to achieve a smooth mixture. If folding in whipped ingredients, such as heavy cream or egg whites, your goal is to retain as much aerated volume as possible while still arriving at a smooth mixture.

Ingredients and mixtures of similar temperatures and consistencies are the easiest to fold together. A handy technique when the temperatures and/or consistencies are not the same is to fold a portion of the lighter mixture, such as whipped cream or whipped egg whites, into a thicker or heavier mixture, such as a pastry cream or lemon curd. This lightens the heavier mixture sufficiently, so that folding in the remaining whipped mixture is accomplished with more success.

To make folding dry ingredients into a cake batter more efficient, first sift the dry ingredients onto a sheet of waxed paper. Then, use a metal icing spatula to distribute them gently, one-third at a time, over the surface of the batter. If it is a sponge-cake batter, sprinkling, rather than dumping, the dry ingredients is especially important because it keeps them from clumping and deflating the batter.

To fold in any ingredient or mixture of ingredients, hold a rubber spatula over the center of the bowl with the broad side of the spatula, rounded edge down, facing you. Cut straight down into the mixture, pull the spatula along the bottom and then up the side of the bowl nearest you, and, with a flick of the wrist, lift the mixture up and over itself, letting it fall gently onto the mixture in the center of the bowl. Rotate the bowl a quarter turn and repeat the stroke. Continue in this manner, always rotating the bowl a quarter turn after each stroke. A few times during the process, bring the spatula up through the center of the mixture and check to make sure the added ingredient(s) are being evenly distributed. Fold no more than necessary to incorporate everything smoothly.

Water baths and bagged ice cubes A warm- or hot-water bath (known as a bain-marie in France) provides a gentle heat environment and ensures that anything baked in it, from cheesecake to bread pudding, cooks evenly. An ice-water bath stops the cooking process of a hot filling, such as for a chiffon pie or other hot mixture, and helps to cool it down, with an occasional whisk or stir, in short order.

To create a warm- or hot-water bath, select a roasting pan or other ovenproof pan with 2- to 2¹/2-inch sides and large enough to accommodate the baking dish or pan with 1 to 2 inches of space between the dish and the pan sides. Or, select a rimmed baking sheet to accommodate the ramekins for Crème Fraîche Custard with Lacy Brûlée Wafers or the muffin pan for Chocolate-Dipped Cheesecake-sicles. Set the baking dish in the roasting pan, or the ramekins or muffin pan in the baking sheet, and place the pan on the center rack of the oven. Using a pitcher, slowly and carefully pour hot water into the pan to reach about halfway up the sides of the vessel holding the baked item (or as directed in individual recipes), and then bake as directed. When finished baking, pull out the oven rack about onethird of the way, and use a turkey baster to transfer most of the water from the pan back into the pitcher. Using oven mitts, remove the pan from the oven and let cool as directed in individual recipes.

To create an ice-water bath, fill a large bowl onethird to one-half full with ice cubes and water. Be sure the bowl can accommodate the pan or bowl of hot filling or other mixture later. Set aside until needed.

If you are whipping a hot mixture, such as an Italian meringue or a sabayon, in a stand mixer, you can speed the cooling of the mixture by putting a few ice cubes in a resealable plastic bag, and holding the bag against the bottom of the bowl or as close to the bottom of the bowl as possible. Continue to apply the bag off and on as the recipe directs.

Toasting nuts Toasting adds additional flavor and texture to nuts that impart extra richness to the recipes that use them. No special equipment or unusual tool is needed for this easy task. About 30 minutes before you want to use the oven, center a rack in it and preheat to 325 degrees f. Spread the nuts evenly on a shallow rimmed baking sheet (rimmed is best for containing the nuts as you move the sheet in and out of the oven). Soft nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, and macadamias, have a higher fat content than hazelnuts and almonds, which means they toast faster. Be sure to set a timer to avoid toasting them too long and wasting time and money. I always have several pounds of untoasted unblanched (sometimes referred to as raw or natural) nuts in the freezer. When I need some, I spread them straight from the freezer on the baking sheet and put them in the preheated oven. If you are toasting them straight from the freezer, you may need to add 1 to 3 minutes to the toasting times given below.

Toast walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, and macadamias until they are aromatic but have not begun to change color, 10 to 13 minutes.

Toast hazelnuts just until their dark, papery skin is beginning to crack and they are aromatic and are beginning to color, 10 to 17 minutes. If a recipe calls for skinned hazelnuts, wrap the hot nuts in a clean kitchen towel until they are cool enough to handle, roll them around in the towel briefly, and then rub them between your palms until you remove as much of the loose skin as possible. Transfer the nuts to a resealable plastic bag and put the bag in the freezer for at least 1 day or up to several days. Remove them from the freezer and rub them between your palms again. Freezing causes the nuts to contract from their skins, which makes it possible to remove more skin. Any skin that remains on the nuts after the second rubbing can stay.

Toast whole blanched or natural almonds just until they begin to color and are aromatic, 10 to 15 minutes. Natural or blanched sliced almonds are ready in 8 to 10 minutes.

Measuring and chopping nuts When you are measuring whole, chopped, or finely ground nuts for a recipe, pour or scoop them from the package with your hand, a serving spoon, or a metal spatula into a dry measuring cup. Don’t pack them unless the recipe directs. When a recipe lists nuts as an ingredient, before chopping or finely grinding them, check their weight in the recipe, too, since you buy nuts in packages marked in ounces and grams (or bulk, where you weigh it yourself).

COARSELY CHOPPED NUTS Chop the nuts on a cutting board with a chef’s knife, or put them in a food processor and process with brief (1-second) on-off pulses until the pieces are the desired size. Be careful not to overprocess or you will end up with uneven sizes.

FINELY CHOPPED NUTS When I want nuts chopped somewhere between fine and coarse, as in the Bundernuss Torte and the Heavenly Brownie-on-Shortbread Bars, I use a nut mill (or nut grinder, the same item known by a different name). When chopped nuts are part of the bulk of the recipe, such as in the filling for the Pecan-Pine Nut Tassie Crostata, rather than present simply for their texture and flavor, I use a nut mill for chopping them. Since the mill allows for no variation in speed, intensity, or chopping time, the nut granules it produces will be the same proportion of slightly larger to slightly smaller pieces every time. This ensures that a given weight of nuts will consistently yield the same volume of chopped nuts. Chopping nuts with a chef’s knife is not as speedy and is less accurate. With a nut mill, the nuts go in the top hopper, you turn the handle, and the chopped nuts fall into the glass container below. When you want to feature the nut, as in the Bundernuss Torte or the Pecan-Pine Nut Tassie Crostata, you have the option to put the nuts in a sieve, and shake out the nut powder.

FINELY GROUND NUTS A small, handheld rotary cheese grater is fine for small amounts of nuts. For larger quantities (¹/2 cup and up), I use a Zyliss grater (see Sources), which has a clamp that suctions onto a dry, smooth countertop. A sturdy plastic pusher keeps the nuts against the stainless steel drum while you turn the handle. Finely ground nuts not only flavor the baked good, but also often help give the cake, cookie, or meringue its structure, as in Frozen Lemon Glacier.

You can also use a food processor or an electric herb and spice mincer, but I recommend working with only a few ounces of nuts at a time to prevent their high fat content from making the ground nuts too oily.

Toasting coconut Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees f. Spread unsweetened medium-shred dried coconut or sweetened flaked dried coconut over a shallow rimmed baking sheet and toast until the shreds or flakes are a mixture of pale, golden, and ivory, about 15 minutes for 2 cups coconut and up to 25 minutes for 5 cups coconut. The coconut around the outer edges of the baking sheet colors sooner, so every 5 to 7 minutes, use a metal spatula to toss the coconut toward the center of the sheet to blend all of the shreds or flakes.

Melting chocolate Melted chocolate is added to many cake batters, frostings, fillings, and the like, so knowing how to melt chocolate properly is an important technique to master. Just a little heat is required to melt any brand of chocolate, no matter the amount. Excessive or direct heat can scorch it, sacrificing its flavor, and maybe even separating the cocoa butter from the chocolate solids. In other words, you want to melt chocolate to liquefy it, not to cook it.

THE WATER-BATH METHOD I prefer the water-bath method (or makeshift double-boiler method), in which finely chopped chocolate is melted in a bowl that fits snugly over a container half filled with water at 95 to 120 degrees f (tap water hot to the hand). To ensure the water is the correct temperature, use an instant-read thermometer. The temperature range depends on the type of chocolate you are melting. If a recipe calls for melting finely chopped chocolate, chop it into matchstick-sized pieces (the small pieces speed the melting process) on a clean, dry cutting board with a large, sturdy serrated knife, a chef’s knife, a santoku knife (page 42), or a cleaver. If it calls for melting coarsely chopped chocolate (usually when melting it with other ingredients, such as cream or butter), chop it into coarser chunks using the same tools.

Melt finely or coarsely chopped dark chocolate, including unsweetened, semisweet, and bittersweet, over water at 120 degrees f. As the water cools, replace it with more hot water as needed to melt the chocolate completely.

Melting milk and white chocolate, always finely chopped, requires more careful attention. If melted over water hotter than 95 to 110 degrees F, they tend to form small lumps, or seize. Allow the chocolate to sit over the water before stirring to give the chocolate closest to the heat source time to begin to melt, then stir gently. When almost all of the chocolate has melted, remove the bowl from over the water and stir gently. The residual heat in the bowl should melt the remaining chocolate. If not, return the bowl over the water, or replace the water if it has cooled too much to melt the chocolate. Remember that too much heat affects the milk proteins in the chocolate (a process known as denaturing), causing it to become lumpy. If the chocolate is overheated, nothing you do will restore it to its original flavor or gloss.

THE MICROWAVE METHOD Following the same techniques described for the water-bath method, chop the chocolate finely for amounts up to 6 ounces (170 grams) and chop it coarsely for amounts from 6 ounces to 1¹/2 pounds (680 grams). Place in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave uncovered at 50 percent power (medium) until the chocolate appears shiny, 30 seconds to 2 minutes at a time with 30-second to 1-minute intervals. This will take a total of 1 to 5 minutes, depending on the microwave and the amount, brand, and type of chocolate. Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir the chocolate until melted. If any unmelted chocolate remains, microwave for additional 10-second bursts, stirring until smooth. Keep in mind that dark chocolates melted in a microwave can fool you because they retain their shape and appear solid even when they have liquefied. Press the chocolate with the blade of a dry rubber spatula to get a sense where the chocolate is soft and liquid. When you judge it to be almost all liquid, stir it until smooth.

Be vigilant when melting milk and white chocolate in a microwave. Watch them carefully and stir them often to prevent overheating.

MELTING CHOCOLATE WITH BUTTER Some recipes, especially bar cookies like brownies, call for melting chocolate with butter. To streamline the process, cut the butter into a few pieces, place them in a microwave-safe bowl, put the coarsely chopped chocolate on top, and microwave the mixture uncovered at 50 percent power (medium) until the chocolate appears shiny and most of the butter is melted. Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir the ingredients together until smooth. If the mixture is not completely smooth, return the bowl to the microwave and heat for 10-second bursts, again stirring until smooth.

Grating citrus zest Lightly pass the citrus fruit over the tiny sharp-edged holes on a Microplane grater, being careful not to remove any more of the white pith than necessary. Turning the fruit after each stroke makes this easier to accomplish. The Microplane is terrific because the shreds are quite fine and you can avoid removing any of the pith. I have discovered that 1 teaspoon zest removed with a Microplane grater does not provide the same flavor intensity as 1 teaspoon zest removed with a standard box grater. So I grate more zest and pack it firmly into the measuring spoon to ensure I get the flavor intensity I like in my recipes. The amount of citrus zest called for in the recipes is based on using a Microplane grater.

Caramelizing sugar I regard the smooth, unctuous cream that results when you caramelize sugar to be one of the world’s most delicious taste sensations. The sugar responsible for this magnificent, complicated flavor is sucrose, which is simply table sugar made from sugarcane or sugar beet. (I prefer sugarcane.) To turn sugar into caramel is not difficult, but to do it safely (sugar caramelizes between 320 and 350 degrees F) and correctly is vital to producing the amber-brown color that will eventually influence the color and flavor of a sauce.

As the sugar caramelizes, its flavor becomes more complex and pronounced, while its sweet characteristic is diminished. The longer the sugar cooks, the darker it becomes, changing from very light gold to dark amber. How dark you want it depends on the recipe.

Putting an apron on when you caramelize sugar is a given, but you should also be sure to wear a shirt with long sleeves to protect your arms. When you add liquid, such as water or cream, to caramelized sugar, it can produce steam and/or bubble wildly because of the extreme temperature difference between the caramel and the liquid. To lessen this result, gradually bring the liquid to room temperature. Adding liquid directly from the refrigerator will cause the caramelized sugar to bubble and sputter violently and probably to solidify slightly, making it difficult to form a smooth emulsion. Thin, runny sauces or smooth, semiliquid fillings made from caramelized sugar thicken as they cool.

Don’t be seduced by the beautiful color of caramel or its rich aroma: from the beginning to the end of the caramelizing process, no matter how tiny a taste you want, never ever poke a finger into the hot caramel, or a burned finger will be your reward. Also, always wear oven mitts when holding the heavy saucepan in which you are preparing caramelized sugar or a caramel cream or sauce.

There are two methods for caramelizing sugar: wet and dry. The recipe on the right uses the wet method, which is especially helpful for people new to caramelizing sugar. It calls for dissolving the sugar in water over low heat, then raising the heat to medium-high and heating, without stirring, to evaporate the water. Once the sugar is concentrated, it will begin to show color. How dark you want the caramel depends on the recipe you are using.

The dry method calls for dissolving the sugar slowly over low heat in a heavy saucepan or skillet. When I am caramelizing sugar to make an ultrathin sheet for decorating the top of a tart or cake, I like to use a nonstick skillet. I melt the sugar until it is amber, pour it onto a silicone mat, and then set it aside to cool and firm up enough to lift off and break up into shards or pieces. I like using a skillet for the dry method because more of the surface of the sugar is exposed to the heat, which allows the sugar to melt more evenly. However, you can achieve the same results in a heavy saucepan, but you must stir the sugar with a wooden spoon to ensure it melts evenly.

The residual heat in a pan can cause an amber caramel to change color in a split second, so have a bowl of ice water on hand to stop the cooking. What you see in the pan is not what you get: to judge the color of caramel, once the sugar begins to color, occasionally dip a wooden chopstick or the tip of a wooden spoon into the molten sugar and drop a small sample onto a white plate.


The best way to illustrate how to caramelize sugar correctly and safely, and the precautions you must take to avoid having to start over, is to provide a recipe that both tells you how and shows you how. For a more saucelike consistency—something to spoon over ice cream, to dip fruit in, or to pour over a poached pear—increase the ® cup (2 ¹/2 fl ounces/75 ml) heavy cream to ¹/2 cup (4 fl ounces/120 ml). You may also double (or scale up further) this recipe. Just select a larger saucepan.





Pour the water, corn syrup and sugar, in that order, into a 3- to 4-cup heavy saucepan. Swirl the pan to combine the ingredients and moisten the sugar. Place over low heat and stir occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. When the sugar has dissolved, stop stirring, raise the heat to medium-high, and boil the mixture. Keep a pastry brush in water to wash down any sugar crystals that form on the sides of the pan while the sugar solution cooks. The syrup may begin to color in one section of the pan first. Gently swirl the pan to distribute the heat evenly, and continue to cook until the caramel is amber. (To check for the desired color, dip a wooden chopstick or the tip of a wooden spoon into the molten sugar and drop a small sample on a white saucer.)

Remove from the heat and pour in the cream all at once. The mixture will bubble madly, climbing up the sides of the pan. It may appear that the mixture will overflow, but it won’t. Stir the mixture with a small silicone spatula or wooden spoon to distribute the heat and blend the ingredients together. Set aside to cool for about 10 minutes, and then pour the caramel cream into a bowl.

Making brown butter Here is another delicious taste sensation that is right up there with caramelized sugar. Brown butter, or beurre noisette, is butter that is cooked to a hazelnut brown. To make it, you melt butter (I prefer unsalted) and then cook it until its milk solids toast slightly. It lends a unique, nutty depth of flavor to baked items, such as cookies, cakes, fillings, frostings, and waffles, and enhances the nuttiness of any type of nut in the recipe.

Be careful when browning the butter because while brown butter is fragrantly nutty and delicious, burned black butter is bitter and inedible. Generally, 8 ounces (2 sticks/225 grams) unsalted butter, melted, yields 1 cup (8 fl ounces/240 ml) butter. However, the browning process for the same amount of butter causes the moisture in the milk solids to evaporate, so the yield for brown butter starting with the same amount is about ³/4 cup (6 fl ounces/180 ml).

To prepare brown butter, melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, and then continue cooking, watching closely, until the butter foams, just turns golden, and has a nutlike fragrance and the bottom of the pan is covered with golden specks. The timing will vary depending on the amount of butter and the heat level; 8 ounces butter will usually take 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, and strain the butter through a fine-mesh sieve, if desired. I let the golden specks remain in some recipes, like Brown Butter Bundtlettes and Nancy’s Brown Butter Buttons. Specific recipes in the book use brown butter slightly cooled, at body temperature yet still melted, cooled to room temperature, and when it is cold and solid from the refrigerator. Brown butter, tightly covered, will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Whipping egg whites Here are a few important things to remember before you whip egg whites: Be sure the bowl and whisk are free of any trace of oil or egg yolk. Both will retard egg whites from reaching their optimum (not to be confused with maximum) volume because the fat emulsifies with the water in the whites, weighing them down and inhibiting volume. Crack eggs when cold because the yolk is firmer and less likely to break. The temperature of egg whites affects their foaming stability, with the ideal temperature about 60 degrees F, or slightly cooler than room temperature. A cooler white is thicker, more viscous, and the air bubbles that form hold better, with less tendency to overwhip. Room-temperature whites (about 70 degrees F) whip more quickly but with a greater risk of overwhipping. To reach that optimum temperature, separate the whites cold from the refrigerator and set them aside at room temperature for about 1 hour.

For many recipes, you are whipping whites until they form stiff peaks so they can be folded into another mixture. In general, the following technique is used: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or with a handheld mixer), whip the egg whites on medium speed until foamy, 30 to 45 seconds. Add cream of tartar (if using), increase the speed to medium-high, and continue whipping until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue to whip until shiny, stiff peaks form. To test if the whites are ready, lift some with the whisk. If they stand upright with a slight bend at the tip (yet are not so stiff that they cannot be folded into another mixture), they are ready. Keep in mind that the mixer speed at each stage can vary depending on how many whites you are beating, how much sugar you are using, and the specific recipe.

Whipping egg whites for an angel food cake calls for a slightly different technique, and doing it properly is particularly critical because the whites are the cake’s only leavening. The best technique begins with mixing on medium-low speed to break up the egg whites until they are frothy. Then add the cream of tartar and whip on medium speed until soft peaks form. Continue whipping while gradually adding the granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, until the whites have thickened to form shiny, white, droopy peaks that appear dense yet elastic. It is better to err on the side of underwhipping than overwhipping. If you whip the whites too stiff, incorporating the other ingredients will require extra folding, and you will lose volume. The overextended air cells are also more likely to collapse in the oven, and the finished cake will be tough and chewy rather than meltin-your-mouth tender. The result you want is egg whites that whip to an optimum, not maximum, capacity, so they can be incorporated easily with the other ingredients, leaving room to expand in the oven. The final batter should be fluffy yet fluid enough to be pourable, rather than spoonable.

Whipping cream Begin with good-quality heavy cream, preferably 36 to 40 percent butterfat. For optimum results, have the bowl and whisk or beater(s) cold (from the refrigerator), especially for amounts larger than 2 cups, since the friction created with whipping

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